I finally finished writing everything. I let out a proud smile as I relaxed my tense shoulders.
I slapped my shoulders roughly and folded the stiff letter paper. It was a letter to my family and a will.
I hid the will in a drawer and entrusted the letters to the butler.
The butler looked at me with concern while lying in bed. He asked,
“Are you feeling unwell?”
“I’m fine. I’ll be better soon.”
I reassured him that it was just a temporary condition.
“As expected, it’s better to call for the priest…?”
“I want to take a few days off since I’m not feeling well.”
It wasn’t the kind of thing someone who lives to play and eat everyday would say, but the loyal butler said yes.
I felt guilty because of his attitude, because he didn’t even doubt me.
Still, I didn’t want to create any unnecessary situations. Maybe Estelle thought the same thing and didn’t tell me everything.
I couldn’t bear what would happen after that if I explained everything to the butler.
So I had to keep it hidden until the end, even though I felt sorry.
* * *
Noel bought all the materials allowed in the temple for me.
Originally, it was an amount that one couldn’t read in a lifetime, but only a few were related to incurable diseases.
Also, there was no symptom like Estelle’s in any of them. In fact, the materials related to incurable diseases themselves were strange.
All of them could be cured with holy power.
Noel had expected this fact. He regarded holy power as a blessing from God. The temple couldn’t admit that there were diseases that couldn’t be cured with such power.
They didn’t dispose of the data, but kept it hidden in a place where only a very small number of people could access it.
Noel thought it was in the archives. To be precise, it should be called an archive that even he wasn’t allowed to enter.
Currently, Noel was a symbol of the temple along with the saint. Such a place where he couldn’t enter was not common.
Besides the place was not even named, so it was called the ‘forbidden room’ among those who knew the archives.
It was such a closed place that only Noel and other experienced priests knew its location.
Even Noel didn’t want to go there. But this time, he had a reason to go.
Because he didn’t want to avoid it anymore.
Noel’s determination meant he had to go in. He didn’t try things he didn’t think were possible.
After passing through the maze-like path and arriving at the destination, one yawning knight was standing guard.
He was tense at the approaching figure from afar, but when he recognized him, his eyes sparkled.
“I’m sorry… Ah, it’s you, Father.”
He was a paladin, but all he did was stand in front of a door he didn’t recognize.
He had few chances to meet Noel. It was the first time he had seen him up close.
He looked like he could easily be a child of God. His golden eyes were like God’s grace, and his red hair looked like God’s gift.
If I could get even one strand of that hair, I could stay here in front of this door for the rest of my life.
That was the knight’s maximum compliment as he was a knight who thought about quitting dozens of times a day.
Noel could clearly read the knight’s thoughts. He met many like him.
Watching the touched knight as if facing God, Noel smiled with compassion. Since then, holiness spewed out like a halo.
“May God’s blessing be with you. I’m sorry, but can I go in for a moment?”
“Ah… Uh, that….”
The knight wanted to move his body right away, but he was aware of his mission. Noel was originally an area where entrance was prohibited.
It was right to tell him to go back, but… as it was Noel who was in front of him, his judgment was blurry.
The knight began to have a lifelong dilemma. Of course, Noel was aware of that conflict as well.
“I know it’s forbidden, but there’s something I need to check.”
“It’ll only take a moment… will that be difficult, too?”
The gloomy expression was evident to anyone. Noel looked pitifully at the closed door.
No one could ignore Noel, who had exerted the full power of his appearance. The knight opened the door as if possessed.
“Please come in….”
“Thank you. It’s nothing special, but please take it.”
Noel handed him a purse containing money, smiling satisfied with the development he had hoped for.
Although he usually found those who were enthusiastic about his appearance annoying, but they were helpful in times like this.
Noel checked the time and passed through the dark bookshelves. It seemed to be roughly divided by case.
As he went deep inside, a bookshelf related to diseases appeared.
Among the old books, a relatively intact one caught his eye.
It was written in a code, as if they wanted to hide it. Noel recalled the decoding method he learned a long time ago and began to read the book.
There had been cases before. The main content was about a close friend’s death, but previous cases also often came up.
Circles floated in the air, holy power don’t work. The symptoms worsened slowly and were not easily visible from the outside.
There were seven cases in this book alone. There were probably more actual cases.
So what was the cause of this disease? The answer could be found on the last page.
All the pieces fit together like a puzzle.
The reason why the temple had hidden it so much, the reason why the supposedly omnipotent power did not work, and the identity of the being that only appeared to patients.
Now everything was understood.
* * *
What I expected finally happened. When I woke up, my legs wouldn’t move.
My lower body was strange, like it had no sensation as if my upper body was separated.
I waited for my legs to get better by massaging them, but it had no effect.
Thanks to the necklace Diet gave me, I didn’t feel any pain, but it was a little scary to see visible symptoms.
I exhaled slowly to avoid getting excited. As time passed, I could naturally calm down.
I had been mentally prepared for this anyway. It was better than I thought.
Unlike the past when I was full of anxiety, I could now maintain calmness.
The sunlight was shining down on the day I closed my eyes. Perhaps because I could enjoy my leisure time, the sunlight felt particularly warm.
“Are you uncomfortable?”
“It’s good that I’m comfortable…but…”
Diet came up to me and spoke. I was leaning against him on the bed.
He came to see me when I finally calmed down. Although it may have been because of what happened yesterday, I felt good.
Diet stared at my legs that couldn’t move for a long time. Then he strengthened the pain relief magic just in case something happened.
That was all he did after looking at my legs. He spent time by my side without offering any comfort or advice.
Perhaps he judged that no words could comfort me. His consideration was appreciated.
The composure I’m maintaining is in a precarious state that can be shattered by a single word.
Diet continued to support my body so that I wouldn’t get bored lying down. His solid shoulder gave me a sense of stability.
As the distance got closer, I could smell a scent that I couldn’t detect before. It was a refreshing forest scent that could only be felt deep in the mountains.
I never thought the smell of grass was good, but I felt relieved by the fragrance that brought comfort.
Did he put on perfume? Either way, it’s a fragrance that suits him well.
“Was the reason you got engaged to me because you thought you I’d like it, right?”
“Yeah… That’s right.”
Diet nodded after a moment of hesitation. His hair fluttered in the wind without any reaction.
I spoke calmly without any significant response.
“From now on, be with someone you love.”
The future is unknown, but Diet was firm. I could feel his unwavering determination.
Diet’s hand that was trembling slightly took my hair. It was light enough to hold.
Diet started touching his hair just like me. It was a gesture similar to when you fiddle with your hands aimlessly when you’re deep in thought.
His long and fine fingers touched the ends of my hair.
“If I love, that would be Estelle, it seems to be you.”
It was a voice full of affection. I couldn’t see Diet’s expression because my head was on his shoulder.
But his gentle touch on my hair seemed to represent his feelings.
Still, I wanted to deny it.
“But this is just temporary. Someone better than me will come along someday.”
“But I like you.”
Diet, who had been hesitant for a moment, moved his hand again. His touch was a little rougher than before.
He said before that he would like me if we get married. Somehow, Diet’s emotions seemed to have become stronger than before.
Well, it’s been quite some time, so it’s not unreasonable for things to progress. Of course, it could be my delusion, too.
Half of our original thoughts are probably made up of misconceptions and illusions. Even before, I used to confess and say things like ‘I don’t like you that way,’ so the likelihood of it being a misconception was high.
Anyway, trying to persuade him so desperately is too meddlesome.
“Well, if that’s what you think.”
Truth be told, I didn’t desperately want to change Diet’s mind–not for his sake, but for mine.
I closed my eyes while accepting emotions that I couldn’t tell if they were joy or pain.
“…What would you do if you could live?”
But my eyes opened again soon after. Diet’s tone was more hesitant than happy.
The meaning is–
“So, you have to pay a big price instead?”
“…How did you know?”
“I knew it when I heard it.”
It’s too obvious. Even with my eyes closed, I can tell that he’s suffering.
Diet was doing his best to find a way to save me. So, the content had to be filled with hope.
But his current attitude was beyond strange. How could I accept it positively?
He didn’t deny my guess.
Diet gently removed his hand from my hair. He lowered his hand and tightly grasped the bedsheet.
It was a look that seemed to forcibly suppress his boiling emotions. Diet slightly revealed his troubled feelings.
“If you want, I can extend your lifespan with magic.”
“What has to be sacrifice for that?”
“It varies from person to person, but losing a part of your body or someone precious is typical.”
It’s a way to save a dying person. If there’s a price, it must be something like that.
I responded calmly since my expectations weren’t wrong. But the wrinkles on the bedsheet he held deepened in contrast to mine.
“What are you going to do?”
“You know my answer, don’t you?”
I don’t know what Diet wants. But I know he’ll respect my decision.
I turned my gaze away from the hair I was playing with. I lifted my face that had been looking down all the time.
I could see Diet’s distorted expression. His eyes were so dry that it looked like he was about to cry.
I raised the corners of my mouth from my tightly closed lips and made a soft smile.
“I won’t do it.”
“I knew it.”
Diet, who forcibly raised the corners of his lips, slowly nodded his head. The corners of his eyes curved gently.
Diet didn’t ask anything, but he was still grateful and sorry.
Before I knew it, his presence had become significant to me as well.